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Is football fit for purpose?

By Gordon Farquhar
BBC sports news correspondent

Lord Triesman
Lord Triesman resigned as England's 2018 bid chief last May

A House of Commons inquiry into the governance of football begins on Tuesday, with Lord Triesman, the former Football Association chairman, among those due to give evidence.

Here's the background on the committee, what we might expect it to achieve and why football fans should be interested:

Q: WHAT ARE THEY DOING?

The cross party committee of MPs are carrying out an inquiry into the governance of football.

They are seeking answers in written and verbal form around a number of key areas, including:

1) Should football clubs in the United Kingdom be treated differently from other commercial organisations?

2) Are football governance rules in England and Wales - and the governing bodies that set and apply them - fit for purpose?

3) Is there too much debt in the professional game?

4) What are pros and cons of the supporter trust shareholding model?

5) Is government intervention justified? If so, what form should it take?

The hearings will take place every week while Parliament sits, and there should be about eight sessions. They will involve a lot of people connected to the game, from former FA Chairmen to supporter groups and even the odd academic and journalist.

The committee will be led by Conservative MP John Whittingdale, and also includes Louise Bagshawe (Con), Paul Farrelly (Lab), Dr Thérèse Coffey (Con), Alan Keen (Lab Co-operative), Damian Collins (Con), Jim Sheridan (Lab), Philip Davies (Con),Tom Watson (Lab), David Cairns (Lab) and Adrian Sanders (Lib Dem)

Q: WHY HAS THE COMMITTEE BEEN SET UP?

The Sports Minister Hugh Robertson recently described football as the "worst run sport in the country."

In their election manifesto, the Conservatives promised a "wide package of reform of football finance and governance".

In the House of Commons there have been a number of questions raised by MPs across the benches about the current state of the game, fuelled by the disappointing performance of the England team at the World Cup, concerns about debt, bankruptcy, club ownership, and supporter disengagement.

It was felt that before the Government worked up a package of proposals to bring about reform, Parliament should have the opportunity through the committee to carry out a thorough inquiry.

They will deliver a report to MPs, which the government will use to help inform their policy-making intentions.

Q: DOES IT MATTER?

Select committees have limited power. Principally, their job is to make recommendations, which can be adopted or ignored by the government of the day as they see fit.

But in this case they're helping to bring into the public domain a proper debate about the future of football and how it's managed.

All sorts of people will appear before them, and MPs ought to be asking the kind of questions the public want answered.

The Conservatives have a stated policy aim specifically to "reform the football governance arrangements so co-operative ownership models can be established by supporters".

That's interpreted in the DCMS business plan as "work with football bodies to consider how best to improve football governance, including options to support the co-operative ownership of football clubs by supporters," so getting supporters more involved in the running of their clubs is a serious aim.

Q: WILL THE FOOTBALL AUTHORITIES TAKE IT SERIOUSLY?

Giving evidence to a Parliamentary committee is a serious business.

The FA have already published their written submission, where they argue against Government intervention, referring not unreasonably to the Fifa rule which outlaws government interference in the running of the game, with the threat, (frequently carried out) of suspension from competing.

Lord Burns, one of those giving evidence, carried out an in-depth review of the way the FA was governed, and nominally, his recommendations were eventually adopted by the FA.

However, they have yet to be fully implemented. Previous government attempts to influence the running of football, like the football task force, reported more than 10 years ago, but have failed to have any significant impact.

At the moment, the government's tactic is of persuasion, not confrontation.

As the Premier League's chief executive Richard Scudamore points out, the select committee isn't a court, so they're not obliged to do as they're told. Not listening however, would be impolite.

Q: WHEN WILL WE KNOW THE OUTCOME?

It's going to take several weeks for the evidence to be taken by the committee and then more time, perhaps a few months, for the report to be prepared and presented to Parliament.

There would then be a government response, which would be the first place to look for the possibility of all the talking to be translated into policy.



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see also
FA changes impossible - Triesman
08 Feb 11 |  Football
FA to reject government support
03 Feb 11 |  Football
Bernstein appointed FA chairman
25 Jan 11 |  Football
Breakaway from Fifa 'impractical' - FA
05 Dec 10 |  Football
FA unfit for purpose, says Caborn
05 Jul 10 |  Football


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